Pioneering for the planet and parity

Julie wearing pink dress and laie, holding a wooden plaque onstage.
Julie Wrigley stands with fellow "Pioneers for the Planet" Dang Yanbao and Sophia Heinonen (who stood in for Kristine Tompkins), and Honorary Chair Prince Albert II.
“Women approach problem solving as an opportunity to share and bring others along on our journeys.” This is Julie Ann Wrigley, cofounder of ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, giving her take on “the power of parity” to a panel at the August 2016 East-West Sustainability Summit in Honolulu, HI. Her comments on the ability of women to create solutions were aptly timed. She delivered them one day before receiving a “Pioneer for the Planet” award, recognized with the likes of Dame Jane Goodall and E.O. Wilson – the “father of biodiversity” – at an event emceed by Pulitzer Prize-winner Thomas Friedman. Called the Sustainability Leaders Luncheon, it was co-hosted by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, whose annual congress was also happening in the Aloha State.   Wrigley’s recognition is the outcome of an early passion to better the planet, with the determination to match it. Gender norms of the 1970s tried to thwart her, resisting her ambition as a Stanford law student to give business an environmental conscience, but times would change. “Then, women barely entered the work force, much less with a message of social and environmental responsibility,” Wrigley told the summit audience. “Fast-forward to about 14 years ago when I was introduced to Dr. Michael Crow, the incoming President at Arizona State University. Several profound changes allowed me to morph my life, to create a new approach for my passion to save humanity from a fast-degrading planet.” The new approach came with Crow’s model of a New American University, one with sustainability as its guiding principle. Before long, the two co-founded the Global Institute of Sustainability, and the nation’s first School of Sustainability – which celebrated its 10th anniversary this year – was less than two years behind. Both the institute and the school, which scale solutions by building international partnerships and creating global networks, speak to the collaborative nature needed to achieve great things. “We all face various choices to fulfill our passions,” said Wrigley. “I am lucky to be living mine.” When Wrigley was recognized as a “Pioneer for the Planet,” she was sitting with Goodall – a woman who turbo-charged Wrigley’s early interest in conservation. They were in the company of other remarkable women – like President Barack Obama’s sister and Ceeds of Peace founder, Maya Soetoro-Ng – whose leadership also inspires environmental action. The message here is clear: no obstacle is a match for passion, especially when the future of our planet is at stake.